Breastfeeding and Pumping: Then & Now

Categories: Breastfeeding, Pumping
April 23, 2021

Back in 1991, when I had my first child, breastfeeding was not very common. I never saw a mother in public breastfeeding her baby. Pumping and breastfeeding have come a long way in the past 30 years. I can remember my first breast pump. It was a manual pump that was very time consuming to use and resulted in a small amount of milk. While technology has contributed to pumping and breastfeeding growing over the years, laws and regulations have also been implemented to make moms feel confident and comfortable breastfeeding when it is convenient for them.

Breast pumps were considered a medical device and only used to express milk to feed premature babies that were too weak to breastfeed. It was as recent as 1996 that the now well-known breast pump company Medela made the hospital-grade, personal use breast pumps popular. Medela quickly recognized the high demand for personal use breast pumps and improved on their technology.

According to the largest study on pumping, “Infant Feeding Practices Study II,” it was not until 2005 and 2006 when 85% of breastfeeding mothers with healthy single-born infants expressed milk from their breasts. Since then, it is common to see breast pumps on baby registries along with all the other baby necessities.

Acelleron Medical Products employee lactation room
Acelleron’s Employee Lactation Room

Since I started working at Acelleron in 2016, I have been amazed to see the different styles and sizes of electric breast pumps. One day at work, a colleague came up to me and asked if I could hear anything. I was perplexed and replied, “No?” She responded with, “Good, because I am pumping.” I couldn’t help but laugh in the moment. Later in the day I was still thinking of this interaction because during my pregnancies, you didn’t really discuss the fact that you may be pumping never mind bringing it up at work. It was a topic you only ever discussed with your mom and your doctor. Pumping was always done in your home, now many offices have separate rooms for the mothers to pump. For the comfort of mothers, these rooms are meant to be decorated in a relaxing and soothing aesthetic.

Each time Acelleron holds a new product demonstration to show the latest and greatest breast pump, I am more amazed at what the pumps can do. In fact, some pump manufacturers now have an app that you can download on your phone that helps track the amount of milk you are pumping, how much time you spend pumping, and the amount of milk your baby is receiving. Furthermore, these apps have alarms to remind you when to pump. There are even freestanding apps, such as those in this article, that offer the same tracking options without connecting to a pump. I used to have to manually track these, and let me tell you, my sleepy self, and pumping in the wee hours in the morning probably wasn’t the most accurate tracking.

Mom looking down at breastfeeding babyAll 50 states have legalized breastfeeding in any public or private location and employers are obligated to allow you to breastfeed or pump on your breaks in a place other than a bathroom. These laws and regulations have made breastfeeding and pumping much more convenient. The convenience does not stop there – moms can now breastfeed in an instant. I can say that this would have been an incredible benefit during my pregnancies – I just think of the times I was waiting for a bottle to heat up with a screaming baby in my arms.

There has been a movement by modern moms to breastfeed in public. While I agree that moms should be able to breastfeed wherever they see fit, however, to produce more milk you must feel comfortable in your environment. So, if you are like me and do not like others staring at you, the best option is to cover up. With the influx of moms breastfeeding, laws and regulations have been instated to ensure your safety and comfort. If you are ever in the scenario where an adult is harassing you for breastfeeding, it is in your rights to contact the police. This What To Expect article has some great tips for breastfeeding in public success and what to do if someone challenges your right to do so.

Although there has much progress over the past 30 years, we still have a way to go. Will we ever get to the point where breastfeeding in public is accepted by all? Only time will tell but with more and more moms joining together, I am confident positive change will continue to happen.


Written by Terri Pomerleau, Operations Specialist at Acelleron.